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Contextual Report: The Impact of Paratexts

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“Hold on, what’s a paratext again?”

I will be using League of Legends to represent my analysis

“Hold on, what’s League of Legends?”

League of Legends or “League” is a team-based game developed by Riot Games, comprised of you being in control of one out of more than 140 playable champions, in a team of 5 players to defeat the enemy’s nexus and team along the way.

How Many Champions are in League of Legends Currently?
League of Legends Champions and counting…

League has come a long way since its release in late 2009, as its fan base grows, so did the game. Present time: League has expanded its brand to such a remarkable extent due to its development of multi-dimensional paratexts that introduces and evolves meaning and value. You may even know some of these paratexts, such as K/DA, Star Guardians, and Arcane (we will visit back to these later). My analysis indicates that paratexts have a significant influence on the player’s behaviour and feelings. Short answer, paratexts extend and intensify the cultural capital of the game for the good or bad as supported by Mikhail Fiadotau. Long answer: answer this, how do you feel when a novel book doesn’t meet the standards of its movie adaptation? This is when we question its integrity which may cause feelings of disappointment. Now, this is just one interpretation vs other interpretations of fans because you and I may feel certain ways about specific texts. This is why I adore the culture that League has presented itself with over the years as it connects more and more fans together for the better or worse.

“What is the framework you proposed again?”

Paratextual Analysis

Let us start with Paratextual analysis, the main reason why paratexts exist is to expand their identity which then allows them to target a variety of audiences to introduce and make interpretations from the game. This is not a new concept as Emily Joy Bembeneck supported this idea. Arguably, Riot has succeeded in the use of paratexts from the league as seen from the engagement from their fans. The reception that these fans have towards such paratexts is grandiose, so much so that it has influenced fans to show their feelings and behaviour in form of cosplay and forms of art, all of which are of personal interpretation that hold a cultural value that money can’t buy. The recurring terms that I want to establish in my analysis are interpretations and their connections towards fans and League, as I cannot emphasise enough the mass cult following from some of the League’s Paratexts. 

Cosplay of K/DA Akali

K/DA is an event within League, set in an alternate universe, where select champions are famous for their pop and electric music, and pop group look. It was first established in 2018 with their release of POP/STYLE featuring renowned artists including Maddison Beer, G-IDLE and Jaira Burns to promote the League World Championship, an international competitive event of the game.  POP/STARS reached 100 million views within a month on youtube which positioned them first place in the US World Digital Song Sales as of the week of release and currently has over 500 million views as of today. Not only has it promoted the event and its relative champion skins, but it has also amassed millions of fans that were not even aware of the game itself but are attracted more to KDA. Fans express their attraction by cosplaying which illustrates the high level of the cultural capital KDA has on League, emphasising the connectedness from the paratext.

“POP/STARS” by K/DA

Narrative Analysis

For the second part of my framework, I’ve chosen to analyse the narrative of such paratexts. Arcane from League is an exceptional example of such paratext for its narrative because it allows players and fans of select champions to visually experience their story. Featured on Netflix, Arcane is an animation series full of action based on the origins of several iconic League champions set in the utopian city of Piltover, that revolves around the duality of good and bad in life affected by trauma.

Arcane Official Trailer

This detail of storytelling presents different perspectives of characters and the worlds they inhabit. A clear contrast can be seen from the different worlds which support the idea of how environments surrounding individuals can influence how they behave and feel. For example, the world of Piltover is referred to as the “City of Progress” supported by the champions Jayce and Viktor. They portray a lighter tone in the story which can be seen by the colour choice and complex visuals. Unlike Piltover, the “Under-city” is essentially a decrepit area filled with terror and adversity supported by the champions like Vi and Powder. It was later found that Jinx was a persona of sorts from her original name “Powder” which is incredibly interesting as the show portrays Jinx’s character development that wasn’t shown in the game. This type of parallel is not a new concept, and quite frankly our society today can be represented similarly through different countries and cultures. The level of storytelling that had produced cannot be achieved alone through League’s lore as it encompasses the power of such narrative that engages a sense of sympathy between the champions themselves and the audience.  

This is where I believe that paratexts would not exist or be where they are without the use of narrative as it allows players and non-players to be immersed and sympathise towards certain champions.

Structure Analysis

I find it quite interesting how such paratexts are structured based on how they are received. After all, when a product meets a consumer’s demand, they are bound to receive greater reception towards such products. Having a formulated structure towards developing such paratexts critical to main the integrity of its narrative. See how my framework interconnects? Let’s explore this with League’s Star guardians, a prime example of having such structural integrity. Star Guardians are set in a parallel universe that follows a story of a group of 5 champions depicted as high school students chosen to have the powers to protect the light of the stars. The first Star Guardians were released in 2016 with 5 members, followed more the release in 2017 and 2019 and recently in 2022 with an additional 27 other members. There is a recurring theme here with the number of champions that are introduced per release as that is a structural form that Riot maintained. However, This year’s star guardians I found it being extra special as it features a collaboration with renowned artist Porter Robinson who is famous for his electronic music. Here is a clip on the making of the theme song for this year’s Star Guardian with Porter Robinson. 

“Everything Goes On” by Porter Robinson

Porter discusses that he does not create music for the sake of creating, but to create for the audience to form intimate connections with the star guardians. This elevates Starguardian’s identity and allows heavy engagement towards the game and fandom. 

Making of “Everything Goes On” by Porter Robinson

OK, so, let’s take a breath and recap with a current example. Recently, Lil-Nas X who is also a famous music artist collaborated with League of Legends to represent the company as their “president” to feature the release of their new champion K’Sante and the now-finished Worlds Championship. K’Sante and his relative skin can be represented as a paratext.

Lil-Nas X actually co-designed the creation and development of K’Sante which shows his influence on the structure and narrative of the champion. Now can you see how my framework can be used? Lil-Nas X also produced the theme song for the Worlds Championship, which follows the same structure as the release of StarGuardians with Porter Robinson. Riot follows this same formula to successfully promote their paratexts connections and relationships that the game alone cannot do. Multiple streams of audiences are captivated by this level of connection from fans from the artist to the fans of the game. 

My framework is only the beginning of this, although I believe that paratexts offer so much more meaning and engagement to everyone for better or worse, and can be analysed through paratextual, narrative and structural analysis.

REFERENCES:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/469037

https://link-springer-com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/book/10.1057/9781137525055

Click to access Compaso2015-61-Fiadotau.pdf

Click to access Compaso2015-61-Fiadotau.pdf

https://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=tsr-CgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA41&dq=legends+of+runeterra&ots=lGz9rd0uQv&sig=IgCEN68rv4CIf8Iq6oWkuzTHols&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=legends%20of%20runeterra&f=false

https://www.reddit.com/r/leagueoflegends/

https://www.leagueoflegends.com/en-au/news/dev/

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